(CNN) — The United States has now passed the devastating milestone of half a million deaths from covid-19. It is a shocking figure that, according to the experts, did not have to be so high.
“I think if you look back historically, we have done worse than most other countries and we are a rich and highly developed country,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday.
“It’s so difficult to go back and try to do a metaphorical autopsy on how things were. It was just bad, “added Fauci.
The death toll from covid-19 in the US is by far the highest of all countries, and more than double that of Brazil, which according to data from Johns Hopkins University has the next highest number of deaths related to the virus.
The US has also reported the most infections, and now more than 28 million Americans have tested positive for COVID-19. That number is more than double India’s case count, second in line, according to data of Johns Hopkins, and almost triple that of Brazil.
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Experts have pointed to several factors that may have contributed to the pandemic’s worsening, including a lack of clear messages from the country’s leadership, state and local leaders loosening restrictions too quickly, large holiday celebrations, and continued resistance to face masks. and other safety precautions.
“A mask is nothing more than a life-saving medical device and yet it was categorized in many other ways that were not factual, scientific, and frankly dangerous,” said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health. Cheers on “Axios on HBO” earlier this week.
“I think it can be argued that tens of thousands of people died as a result,” Collins added.
What the United States must do now
Emergency doctor Dr. Leana Wen said the milestone was a reminder of “all the lives we could have saved.” And now he says he is worried about what might happen.
“My biggest fear right now is complacency,” Wen told CNN on Monday.
While states across the country may be reporting encouraging trends, experts including Wen have warned that now is not the time to back down, especially with variants of the coronavirus in circulation.
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“The best way for us to get back to normal is to redouble our efforts right now, not taking off our masks, not eating indoors, not doing other things that we know may risk reigniting flare-ups,” said Dr. Craig Spencer , director of global health in emergency medicine at the New York-Presbyterian / Columbia University Medical Center.
“Most of the people in this country, despite previous infections and despite two months of vaccinations, still have no protection against covid and can become infected,” he told CNN. “This is not over and we have to redouble our efforts.”
That means continuing to wear a mask, distancing yourself socially, avoiding crowded areas, washing your hands regularly, and practicing the safety measures that have so far worked to slow the spread of infections.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said during a briefing on Covid-19 on Monday that while the numbers may go in the right direction, “the cases, hospital admissions and deaths remain at very high levels. ‘
New cases have been steadily declining for five weeks, Walensky said. But the US continues to add tens of thousands of new infections daily. In February alone, more than two million new cases of covid-19 have been registered.
Hospitalizations have plummeted since the Jan.6 peak of more than 132,400 covid-19 patients. But more than 55,400 people remain hospitalized with the virus, according to COVID Tracking Project.
And every day, COVID-19 claims hundreds of lives. More than 1,300 deaths were reported Monday, according to Johns Hopkins data, and more than 52,000 have been reported this month.
“While the pandemic is moving in the right direction, there is still a lot of work to do,” said Walensky.
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Study: Smell and taste may not return after covid-19 for months
And for many people who survived the bout of the disease, the symptoms continue.
In fact, Canadian researchers reported Monday that people’s sense of smell and taste may not return for up to five months after being infected with the coronavirus.
A team from the University of Quebec surveyed more than 800 healthcare workers who tested positive for the virus. They rated their sense of smell and taste on a scale of zero to 10 and some were asked to take a home test to further assess these senses.
During the initial infection, more than 70% of those who participated in the survey reported losing their sense of smell and 65% reported losing their sense of taste, the researchers said in preliminary results.
Five months later, when they used a home test, 17% of the participants said they still had a loss of smell and 9% of the people had a persistent loss of taste.
“Our results show that an impaired sense of smell and taste can persist in several people with COVID-19,” Dr. Johannes Frasnelli of the University of Quebec, who worked on the study, said in a statement.
“This emphasizes the importance of keeping track of people who have been infected and needs more research to discover the scope of neurological problems associated with COVID-19.”
CDC Announces Emergency Vaccine Advisors Meeting
Meanwhile, as the United States scrambles to get more vaccines, another vaccine could soon get the green light for the US market.
Johnson & Johnson announced earlier this month that it had applied for an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its single-dose covid-19 vaccine.
On Friday, an FDA advisory group will discuss the application and the company’s data. Based on the counselor’s guidance, the FDA may choose to give the vaccine the green light. The CDC advisers will then discuss their own vaccine launch recommendations, which will then need to be formally accepted by the CDC.
The CDC announced an emergency meeting of its vaccine advisers from February 28 to March 1.
Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson will testify Tuesday that it can deliver enough doses by the end of March to vaccinate more than 20 million Americans, helping to increase the country’s existing supply.
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So far, more than 44 million Americans have received at least their first dose of a covid-19 vaccine, data shows. data from the CDC.
About 19.4 million have received both doses, the data shows. That’s less than 6% of the US population.
CNN’s Christopher Ríos, Jen Christensen, and Michael Nedelman contributed to this report.